Featured Comments Off on Installing the Running App |

Installing the Running App

Marathon Runners Riku and Rohini, are a couple who just can’t stop thinking about running.

“If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.”

I read this quote on some blog once and the more I think about it, the more relevant it becomes to me. We (Riku and Rohini) are a couple that just can’t stop thinking about running. Running has taken over many aspects of our lives – our weekends, travel, vacations, shopping lists, going out, food – everything has “running” written all over it. When we started out, neither of us imagined that running will play such a big part in our daily lives. When a family runs together that is how much running takes over your daily life. We become “runners” first.

I could never have imagined an “amateur runner” with no professional aspirations defining themselves as a “runner”. We never hear about anyone defining themselves as “I am a footballer” – if you do, you might think they play professionally, at least at club level. But you’ll be surprised to know that “I am a runner” is a common self-description among runners as they think of running as a big part of their identity.

Wonder why?

Simple – the effect and changes that running brings about are immense. To be able to run well, run injury-free and enjoy the sport you will need to make big, big lifestyle changes.

There’s not a day that will go by where you won’t think about running and yourself as a runner – that’s the effect it has. Give running enough time, and you will see that it will slowly change your diet, your sleeping habits, your attitude towards work and life, and of course, it changes your body.

Come to think of it, “Running is like a very well-designed life-coach app – it takes over your life gradually and makes it better”.

In fact, we often joke that taking up running was exactly like installing an app. This app, once installed in our lives, starts asking for a lot of permissions. It wants to change the very basic aspects of who we are – such as when we sleep, what we eat, what we are supposed to find rewarding, what takes up maximum space in our living room, what we should do on weekends, there is just no end it.

Fighting with the Running “App”.

Of course, just like we might with any nosy app, we can deny some of the permissions. For example:

“Hey, Running App, no I am not going to modify my diet for you. I am not going to have a protein shake or start having almonds and bananas every day…”

We can insist:

“No, ice cream is one thing I am not going to give up on.”

Or:

“Beetroot is my sworn enemy in life, no never!”

Or:
“I can never sleep before 11 PM, I am a night owl!”

And so on…

But then the app starts acting cranky. It refuses to perform well. It nags you with popup messages until you give it the permission to modify the setting. You might repeatedly tell the app that I have installed you to make me fit without having to make all these extra changes, but the “app” eventually wins – you will end up giving all the permissions!

“I have lost this battle, but I will win the war” – Anna Kournikova

That’s exactly how I felt when I gave in to everything the running app wanted from me but, I’m not complaining. We love running and everything that it has brought for us as a couple.

Looking back now, it wasn’t easy to get started or even persevere once started. I lead an active life growing up – martial arts, cricket, basketball, running, a lot of fun. Going out to play was not something I had to plan, it just happened, it was an indulgence. In Rohini’s case, it was much the same, she was more the studious one, with a bit of yoga and cricket till her college years.

But, as it happens with most working professionals, you lose touch with that part of your life. You start making compromises by giving up on your “workouts” (now called “workouts” and not “playtime”!), and instead indulge in a lot of “fun” (read, eating!). All that “fun” coupled with a lifetime’s worth of sitting down – at your desk, on the couch, in the car – is a perfect recipe for an unhealthy body and mind.

As a result of all this neglect, your body starts to change slowly. Many accept this and let it be a part of their new self-image – a chubby happy person, postponing all thoughts of health to a later date. But for some of us, who remain at least partly health-conscious, these changes bug us – we feel guilty, we try diets, we occasionally take a break from our sitting to walk around a park or two.

We did the same too. I tried squeezing in runs every week or so but then I indulged in food even more for the extra work done. When play becomes work, then work needs more rewards – it is a bad cycle to be in. I tried gyms, sports, sports apps, forcing myself to do cardio, but there seemed to be no way out – the more you try to get results, the more frustrating it is to not have any, and the easier it is to stop. The real issue, as we realized later, is that most of our activities have a short-term focus – we want results, and fast. As long as we have that myopic view of why we are being active, it is just not sustainable.

These sporadic attempts went on… until one February, a cousin of ours convinced us to sign up for a TCS 10k event. I was not very sold on the idea of paying money to run, but eventually, we all signed up and started “training” for the event, if we can call it that. Suddenly things were different – there was something to target, there was progress to be measured, it was as if the meaning of the workouts had changed – instead of a short-term thing of working out and expecting daily or weekly results – now all the focus on results had been pushed 3-4 months down the line. It is a lot easier to work out regularly when you are not expecting results every week, and facing the disappointments of not seeing those results.

Weekly runs were a part of life now, but it was not yet enjoyable – but, it was doable and that was good enough. After TCS, came longer runs and longer races – running was tough, but the weighing balance was cooperating, fitness levels were increasing. Good enough. Right?
No! The app had been installed. It was starting to ask for permissions!

Jayanagar Jaguars calling.

In one of the longer races, as I struggled through the latter part of it, I noticed a girl visibly less fit than me, running with a lot more ease and comfort. She was running with a group of other runners; all clad in the trademark white tees of the Jayanagar Jaguars. I knew of the JJs, but I had just recently convinced myself that it is ok to pay money to run races! I had no intention of spending money on training runs as well, but something clicked seeing them run. They seemed to be enjoying it, running was not a workout for them – it seemed like the “playtime” of old. Maybe running in a group is the key… I managed to convince Rohini and we decided to give it a try for a season and see. Little did we know that we had just given the Running App a lot more control over our lives! Now, it had another avenue to convince us to do things – on top of guilt and motivation, now there was peer pressure added, for the app to work its magic on us!

Next season we were both enrolled, soon built up a new set of friends, or rather “Run Buddies”, and every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we had our scheduled “playtime” when we get to go out enjoy, run a bit, of course, and come back feeling really good about ourselves. The JJs are a very eclectic group of runners and we get runners of all levels of fitness coming together, from elites to people just realizing the importance of getting active. It is very rare to find this kind of a group with varying experiences and goals, coming together and supporting each other. Constant fitness and diet chit-chat was a weekly ritual now and as we imbibed the wisdom of veteran runners and people who have achieved major transformations, we all become fitter, faster, better. With no extra effort, or at least, it felt that way! The running app soon had all the permissions it needed, we had stopped fighting with it, and it is functioning smoothly now. Occasionally, there are slip-ups, but we have the support system of fellow runners to get us back on track. It is a great new cycle to be in, where you are always pushed to give your best, and when you don’t, you are gently coaxed back into it.

What we have learned over the last few years is that yes, fitness is a choice, but if you can get out of the “workout” mentality of having to force yourself to do it, that is the first crucial step. You have to figure out a way to enjoy workouts. Running is a social activity which feels like a part of human nature, and there is something about running together that changes you if you let it. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, install the running app, give it the permissions it needs, and go out to play more!

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNISTS

 

Riku and Rohini, a couple who trains with Jayanagar Jaguars in Bengaluru. Riku works at an EdTech firm and Rohini is a PhD researcher working on Cancer.

Read more

Featured Comments Off on A Woman on a mission |

A Woman on a mission

Deepthi Velkur speaks to the Ultra-Marathoner, Gurmeet Soni Bhalla about how running has given a new dimension to her personality.

“If you don’t challenge yourself, you will never realize what you can become” – unknown.

This is such an apt quote to start this interview story with when talking about Gurmeet Soni Bhalla. A paediatrician, allergist, runner, certified scuba diver, traveller, mother to two teenagers ….and the list goes on. Gurmeet challenges herself every single day to be a newer version of herself.

She has been running since 2009 and has so far completed 20 FMs and 7 Ultras of varying distances from 50K to 90K. Her running dreams include completing marathons across all 7 continents (6 done, 1 to go!), running at the North Pole in 2020 and running injury-free for years to come.

In this interview, she shares her perspective on how running has added a new dimension to her personality – her travels, the friends she’s made from all over the world, the charity runs she does and of course inspiring others to take to running.

FM: You take your fitness very seriously, which is a good thing. How did you get into running?

Gurmeet: Yes, I take it very seriously for a very simple reason – I have a high-risk genetic pool. Hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease are not uncommon in my family so staying healthy is a top priority for me. I try to keep my fitness regimen fairly fluid and interesting by trying new things – aerobics, Pilates, normal gym workouts.

Running happened to me out of nowhere to be honest – in 2009 someone asked me to participate in the SunFeast 10K race, I trained for it and ran reasonably well to find myself on the podium. Ever since then, I’ve been running!

FM: When did you graduate into long distance running?

Gurmeet: The transition from a recreational runner – 10K – 21K – 42K happened over a period of 9 months. After I started running in 2009, I got very interested in the sport and that along with a lot of hard work really propelled me to move into long distance running fairly quickly later that year.

FM: You juggle so many roles so successfully. How do you do it? 

Gurmeet: I rely on 3 key tools to keep me sane: (a) Effective time management, (b) Good support system at home and (c) The love and understanding of my family.

Long-distance running is very time consuming so I have to be good with time management. I begin my day early around 5 AM, finish my training run, get home to pack kids off to school, my husband and I walk our dogs and then I head to work.

For support, I invest in good house help so that I can be free to pursue my passion guilt-free and things still work at home.

Finally, the love and understanding of my family are paramount – without this, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

FM: A lot of runners swear by a running coach. Do you share that opinion and what are the benefits of having a coach?

Gurmeet: Yes, I definitely share that opinion. I think having a seasoned coach to mentor and guide you is advantageous and gives you an edge. It really hones your running skills and prevents you from making a lot of mistakes.

Back in 2009 when I started running, there were hardly any coaches. There was a running group called RFL (Runners For Life) who would organise weekly runs that helped runners meet, run and exchange notes. Most runners back then trained themselves either through the internet or running manuals. I remember training with my first coach in 2015. Today, there are several coaches out there to help new runners.

FM: Over nearly a decade of running, you have participated in various events across India and Internationally? Share your experience of running in these countries vs running in India?

Gurmeet: International races are very professionally organised – from running routes to hydration, aid stations to safety and comfort of runners, every aspect of the race is planned carefully. To top that, the crowd support you see abroad is fabulous, I mean the whole neighbourhood steps out to cheer the participants. At the Comrades event in South Africa for instance, you can see a wall of supporters that run for miles, cheering, offering food and beverages. This really helps when you trying to run 90K!

In India on the other hand, we are still learning. A lot of organizers are more concerned about making a quick buck that basic requirements such as properly constituted hydration fluids, decent toilets are often overlooked. Crowd support in India leaves much to be desired – I have seen hostile crowds on race routes who are enraged at being stopped to let runners pass by. Despite these pertinent issues we have in India some races such as the Mumbai Marathon or the TCS 10K are beautifully organised and match the standards of a world-class event.

FM: What was your experience of running a marathon in a land where it all began – The Athens Marathon?

Gurmeet: Athens Marathon is very special to me as this was my first full marathon in 2010. I wanted to run the historic route run by Pheidippides. That year was also the 2500 centenary of Athens Marathon. We were driven to the Marathon village where the Olympic flame gets lit before the start of the race with traditional pomp and show. The course was undulating hills and not very easy. It had superb crowd support and finishing in the ancient Olympic stadia was overwhelming for it felt great to experience the original route from marathon to Athens just like Pheidippides.

FM: You have your eyes set on completing a marathon in all 7 continents? How far have you come in achieving this goal you’ve set for yourself?

Gurmeet: It all started with my annual family vacations and marathons combined together. A few years later I realised that I had run on 5 continents and so the quest to finish the other 2 began. Antarctica was going to be the hardest since the race is a curated one and held once a year. It is usually booked a couple of years in advance. I was lucky to get an opening this year as someone dropped out. Now my focus is South America -the last one. I should be able to finish it in 2019.

FM: What are the benefits of having a partner who shares the same interest as you with respect to running?

Gurmeet: The benefits are immense! I often tell runners to get their partners into the same passion as yours. One of the reasons I have been able to run all over the world is because my husband had a similar interest in running. Also, it’s easier to train together as the partner understands the challenges of a marathon and how much training is needed. Half your battle is won when there is support on the home front.

FM: You do a lot of charity/fundraising through various runs for your foundation “Shishu Care Foundation”?  Have you been successful at it?

Gurmeet: I wish I could do more charity runs and raise money for organisations that need funds. Being a paediatrician, children’s causes are close to my heart. So far, we have been able to raise the funds that we set out for. However, it’s not easy to get people to loosen their purse strings on a regular basis.

FM: What does it take for someone to run an Ultra-marathon? Would you recommend that it is a must do for its sheer experience?

Gurmeet: Ultramarathons are a mind game. Physical training is just one part of it. One has to strategize and believe in one’s capabilities. I was not an ultrarunner but the lure of comrades marathon got me into training for a 90K race. I ran a couple of 50K and 60K races to train both physically and mentally for this big race. Training was hard but the day of the race was a cruise. I knew I could do it and I loved every minute on the course. Ultras may not be everyone’s drug, but, it was a natural progression for someone like me who likes to push boundaries and do more.

FM: Your most recent event was the 2018 Antarctic Ice Marathon? What made you register for the most challenging race of all time?

Gurmeet:Antarctica was always on my radar but it is not easy to run this marathon due to various logistics like it is a small race of 55 people and is held once a year. One has to really plan a couple of years in advance to find a spot in the race. I was certain I would run it one day and I am elated and grateful I could do it beside my husband.

FM: What was the experience like to run in the most extreme weather conditions and still managed to secure a third place?

Gurmeet: Antarctic Ice Marathon was an adventure of sorts! Even after running more than 25 marathons, I was nervous. This was completely out of my comfort zone. I worried about a lot of things from extreme temperatures to new gear, new shoes, new terrain, basically all commandants of racing were to be broken. I had to bank on my running capabilities alone. My husband and I shopped for a lot of polar clothing that we would wear on the race day.

After a long circuitous route of flying to Punta Arenas, the southernmost town of Chile, we were whisked away from civilization a day ahead since the weather and winds were getting turbulent for flying. When the plane touched down on the blue ice runway, icy cold winds welcomed us. We were not ready for such frigid temperatures. 24 hours daylight kept our spirits high but not for long as the weather started to turn bad with low visibility and snowfall which meant no firm ground to run on.

The group did a trial run with layers of new gear and realised that we were overdressed and hence were profusely sweating. This meant soon the sweat would freeze in sub-zero temperatures and we ran the risk of hypothermia and frostbite. After a couple of trials and errors with the gear, final race gear was decided. The challenges of the marathon were formidable because of underfoot conditions and snow and ice throughout the trek along with wind chill temperature of -20C.

There were participants from 14 countries and for a few Brave hearts, this was their first marathon. The race route was changed from 21K to 4 loops of 10.5K to keep things contained. We faced the harshest weather conditions in the last 9 years. The First loop was slow and steady on unknown terrain, the second loop was enjoyable as the whiteout landscape looked ethereal like running on clouds, third was tough as my body temperature started to drop, fourth was done half walking as the track had become uneven by now. My training for ultras helped me stay on track, I didn’t think about podium till about the last loop when I realised there were 3 women ahead of me. Despite the extreme cold I pushed and wasted no time at the aid stations. When I crossed the finish line with the tricolour in my hand I was told, I stood third. It was a very proud moment to be able to put my country on the podium.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

Read more

Featured Comments Off on Your Excuses are your most valuable assets |

Your Excuses are your most valuable assets

Guest Columnist and Runner, Anjana Mohan talks about how to deal with excuses that prevent you from running.

“I don’t know how”

“I’m too busy”

“I’m not sure my body can take this”

Do you catch yourself finding “reasons” to avoid something challenging? Do you find excuses to resist making the changes in your life that you know you need? Instead of focusing on ways to make things happen we often find ourselves doing the opposite. In each “reason” lies the greatest insight towards becoming the person we ultimately want to be.

James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur and bestselling author once wrote an interesting article titled, “Ultimate cheat sheet for dealing with excuses”. He points out that the gap between “what I have now” and “what I would like” is exactly all of my excuses. He says that all we need to do is work our way through the excuses. That’s it!

“Either you figure out how to do without it, work around and use alternatives, or simply work to build or create it” – James Altucher.

Here I offer you my learning from Altucher as adapted for the world of running and fitness.

Let’s start with the basics – the four essential steps to beat an excuse:

Step 1: Recognize that your excuse is the limitation that you must work to overcome

Step 2: Ask if you can do without it, or work around it, if not

Step 3: Work incrementally to build or get what you need. If all of that doesn’t work,

Step 4: Ignore the reasons and proceed anyway (the ‘I don’t give a damn’, I’ll do it anyway attitude!).

Now let’s apply these basics to the top 6 fitness excuses we make:

# 1 on the list – I don’t have time (oh come on! Who hasn’t used this one so far? J)

# 2 and a close favourite for the # position is – I’m not a morning person

# 3 and a crowd favourite – the weather isn’t ideal

# 4 I simply can’t afford it at this time (quite a practical issue but there is always an inexpensive alternative)

# 5 I’m too old for this and

# 6 this is one where our inner demons pull us down – I don’t think I am capable of this or my body isn’t cut out for this

Let’s apply the 4-step technique to each and see how that works.

# 1 – I don’t have time

How often do you not have time to take a shower or brush your teeth? Sure, brushing your teeth takes less time than a 30-min run, but there are plenty of 30-min segments that we waste in a day. Can you honestly say that you spend every minute of your day so optimally, that you cannot find a 30-minute segment for a run? Consider that 30 minutes of exercise clears your head and makes the rest of your day more productive than it would have otherwise been

Time is all about perceptions. Being nimble starts in your head. Don’t make a task seem like a huge effort to prepare for. Put on your running shoes and close the front door behind you, that’s it.

Step 1: Recognize that your time is the limitation that you must work to overcome.

Step 2: Can you do without 30 mins of something else you take time for during the day?

Step 3: Can you work in smaller increments ‐ like 5 to 10 mins segments multiple times a day?

How can you work to eke more time out of your day?
It’s never the ideal time to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone, maybe it will be too cold or too wet or too hot. That’s ok. Here’s where you apply Step 4: Ignore your reasons and proceed anyway. Because you learn simply by doing, and the next time you put on your shoes you will automatically adjust yourself to accommodate and improve the experience. But this time around, just leave the house, just go workout and deal with the discomfort. While you work out, you can think about how to improve your next workout experience.

# 2 – I’m not a morning person

Step 1: If this is your reason, your time preference is your limitation to work through.

Step 2: Can you do without? Can you do with less sleep and take naps during the day?

Step 3: Can you carve yourself a different time to work out. If yes, then great, in trying you will find other challenges to work through. If not, the fact that you were not a morning person is now your roadmap to success. Perhaps you need to simply become a morning person for the purpose of fitness alone. If you are successfully working out at other times, and achieving your goals, then not being a morning person is not an issue.

Working to get what you need may mean finding that motivation every morning. Mornings are recommended because the rest of your excuses haven’t been all arranged together by then. By mid‐day or later, many excuses have organized themselves into a mob making the whole effort harder. So, set an alarm clock and just get up when you hear it. No snoozing, no thinking, no leaking energy, you’ve already decided, now just do it.

Successful people don’t usually have the luxury to be morning, night or afternoon people. They simply do whatever it takes, whenever the opportunity is available.

# 3 – The weather isn’t ideal – it’s too cold or too hot or oh my! Looks like rain

Step 1: The weather is hardly ever optimal, so this is a recurring limitation.

Step 2: Can you do without? This may mean forgoing a hair wash after a sweaty workout, the extra time to dry out wet clothes, or the need to feel clean for your afternoon meeting. Perhaps simply doing without the sense of comfort that comes from perfect weather.

Step 3: Can you avoid the weather-related consequences by breaking down your workout –something indoors? Get creative about addressing your reason head-on and conquer it.

Step 4: Forget about the weather and face the consequences. Maybe the outcome is not as you feared after all.

Any time you find yourself using a reason, see if you can recognize a pattern. Have you skipped a workout at least three (3) times before because you found a “reason”?  Three times is enough for you to both recognize the pattern (if you’re being objective), and simultaneously invent a creative way to make “this time” seems unique.
Be objective, if this is the third time, regardless of why you missed the last two chances, use

Step 4: the ‘I don’t give a damn’, I’ll do it anyway attitude.

Just 30 mins and take it cautiously if you need. Your body will remember how to adjust to your “reason”. The extra reward is the feeling of being hardcore, finally working at being who you want to be.

# 4 – I can’t afford it

Step 1: If this is a real limitation, consider how people with very little stay fit.

Step 2: Ask what you can do without or work around not having. Unlike scuba diving, skiing or even biking, which legitimately require some gear, one advantage of running is that you just need shoes. Barefoot advocates preach that even that is optional, with appropriate training. So, the idea that you need to buy tech gear or expensive event registrations is the most permeable and least robust of excuses. You don’t need to “look” like a runner or “dress” like someone who goes to the gym. You simply need to be that person. If that means going out in your scrubs around your house, so be it. There are those who train in combat gear and those who run in sarees. Gear can be an enhancement to convenience and performance, not an excuse for inaction. Sure, if you need to get a prosthetic leg to run, then

Step 3: Work to obtain one or

Step 4: “Don’t give a damn and proceed” anyway, because that’s the best way to develop the motivation to get what you need.

# 5 – I’m too old

Sikh superman Fauja Singh began running at age 89 and is still running today at age 107.

Stanislaw Kowalski only started running (for fun) 16 years ago at age 92, broke records at age 104 and is still running at age 108. No matter how athletic or genetically inclined these men may have been, the ages they began could have easily kept them from running.
Step 1:  Recognize that you are as young as you are ever going to be

Step 2: Work around your age, and better yet, use your life wisdom to be a better athlete

Step 3 & Step 4: Work to build your energy, or simply not worry about your age and give it a shot

# 6 – I’m not capable / My body isn’t meant for this

You can only find what you are capable of by trying it. Humans have the capacity to adapt to situations, survive and thrive through extremes. Casting doubt on your capability, or what your body can or cannot do without even trying is offensive and disrespectful to yourself.

Negativity and positivity are both self-fulfilling prophecies. People redefine their capabilities daily simply by doing.

Step 1: Work to overcome either your capability or your self‐perception

Step 2: Ask if you can do without the sense of physical comfort at all times

Step 3: Work in small increments to build your capability or decrease your need for comfort

Step 4: Forget your perceived capability and just get up and go work out the best you can

People who run with bad form have long given running a bad name. Many use their knees or back as excuses rather than legitimate reasons. If you don’t like running, that’s ok, as long as you have something else that offers the benefits of sustained exercise. If you already have another form of fitness that works for you, then examine what exactly you may be looking for before you begin to apply the steps.

All excuses, whether for fitness or otherwise, map well to this technique. The formula works because it makes us recognize that we are (consciously or unconsciously) choosing our excuses. Once we own these choices, we can opt to engage with our excuses to overcome them.

I conclude with the words of George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, polemicist, and political activist:

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, Make them!”.

GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Anjana started running in the U.S. in 2007 and has helped mentor many from the couch to half marathon. She is passionate about empowering women through running and now runs in Bangalore with Jayanagar Jaguars

Read more

Training Comments Off on Understanding Zone Training |

Understanding Zone Training

Deepthi Velkur discusses the popular training method, Zone training for marathoners.

Have you ever heard about the “zone”? That term has been thrown around fairly causally nowadays but let’s try and understand what it is.

The “zone” is a state of absolute focus that assists athletes across sports to perform at their peak potential. It’s the point when your mind fully processes only the thoughts and visuals needed to help you achieve your goal.

As an athlete, we often have one recurring question – “what’s the optimum training intensity level I need to be at?”.

Let’s try and break that down to understand it better. In training, there are pre-dominantly 3 key variables – Frequency, Duration, and Intensity.

To be able to achieve your best, you need a good training plan and a good training plan needs to have an amalgamation of different workout routines – some with shorter durations but higher intensity, some with longer times but a more relaxed intensity and so on. A mixed bag really and this variation brings about greater performance improvement.

Just so you know, high-intensity workouts are designed to help you improve speed and stamina while lower intensity workouts help achieve better endurance levels and overall toughness.

All of this leads to the next question – “how do I measure the intensity of my training”?

To answer that question,  you first need to know what are training areas or intensity zones.

Intensity zones are the best indicators to show how hard your body is training during a workout.

For each of us, we have a personal resting heart rate, a minimum heart rate, and a maximum heart rate – between these values lie the different heart rate zones that correspond to the intensity of training and the benefits you reap from that training.

These heart rate zones are linked to your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds and the idea behind this type of training is to prepare your aerobic system without having to overstrain your muscular and skeleton systems.

There are different ways to identify your heart rate zones and the simplest one is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate.

So, how do you arrive at that magical heart rate zone?

There are various formulas to calculate your maximum heart rate(MHR). The MAF method promotes the 180 – formula in which you subtract your age from 180. You could further add or subtract 5 – 10 based on varying factors such as pregnancy, returning from injury or training competitively (subtracting for the former, adding for the latter).

The different heart-rate zones

There are 5 different heart-rate zones and every training plan can include workouts that cover each of these zones.

Here is a breakdown of what each zone means in terms of your heart rate and the benefits of training in each zone.

Zone 1: <70% of MHR:  This is the low-intensity zone. Training in this zone helps in fast recovery and gets you prepared for training in the higher heart rate zones.

Zone 2: 65 -75% of MHR: This is a light zone primarily aimed at the aerobic base building. It is used for long easy runs and you can hold a conversation with your training partner.  This zone helps in stabilizing your performance levels, improving basic endurance levels, training of fat metabolism and technique optimization. This zone is essential for every runner’s program.

Zone 3: 75-85% of MHR: This is a moderate zone that still keeps you in the aerobic range. It is effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the skeletal muscles and the heart. Training in this zone is also used to stabilize your performance levels as well as training of glycogen metabolism and prepares you for higher intensity workouts.

Zone 4: 85-95% of MHR: This is the zone where the going gets tough, breathing will be difficult and your running in the anaerobic zone. Training at this intensity improves your speed endurance and the body uses carbohydrates as an energy source and you can withstand high levels of lactic acid in your blood for a longer duration.

Zone 5: 95-100% of MHR: In this zone, your heart and respiratory system will be working at their maximum capacity. The lactic acid builds up in the blood at this stage and after a few minutes, you are unable to continue at this intensity.

Each zone serves a purpose, and how much time you spend in each zone depends on your training goals. Intensity zones are used in sports because training at different intensities stresses your body in different ways, leading to different physiological adaptations and resulting in different benefits.  If you’re just starting out or have only been training for some time or returning from injury, you probably shouldn’t train at a high intensity. If you’re a professional athlete, look into incorporating interval training into your training plan for peak performance.

Reaping the benefits of zone training

The biggest hurdle with heart rate training especially for advanced runners is holding back. People often feel they are doing something wrong if they are running at a slow pace – this often leads to frustration. The benefits of this training is to stay consistent, be patient and your pace will automatically improve.

Try and mix different workouts as variety is good, vary the intensity and duration of your training sessions and don’t be stuck running the same distance every time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

Read more

Motivation Comments Off on 13 podiums, 1 weekend |

13 podiums, 1 weekend

Deepthi Velkur catches up with the PaceMakers who bagged 13 podium finishes across marathons in a single weekend.

As the dawn breaks and the chirping of birds fills the air, there is a rush of feet and the buzz of excited chatter as the runners from the group gather together, heading for the bright sunshine and open roads beckoning them. Left behind are apprehensions and the fading echoes of yesterday’s stress.

The PaceMakers are a running group of spirited long distance (from 10K to Marathon) runners of all abilities –novice to experienced, who train under the leadership and guidance of Coach Pani who strongly believes that the group’s greatest strength is “training as one family”.

The structure, the planning, the determination all came together the weekend of 16th December 2018. As they trudged along and participated in 2 big events – Tata Steel Kolkata Marathon and Thump! Celebration Bangalore Marathon, no one could have predicted the stunning outcome – 13 podium finishes across categories and age-groups.

The secret to their success

Here at the PaceMakers, Coach Pani strongly believes that “the camaraderie shared, planning of strategies to run in groups before a race, pacing other runners to achieve their goals and motivating each other especially, when they are down with injuries or sickness is what keeps us together and achieve success”.

He goes on to add, ” To be very frank and honest we always win more podiums in the Thump Celebration Event which happens in December. It could be because of lesser competition from other running groups, runners prefer to take part in different events conducted across India, running events getting clashed with each other etc. But, I will not take away the credit of my runners who work hard throughout the year to give their best in this event as it is the last Time Trial before the Big Mumbai Marathon which is conducted in the third week of January every year. One thing I will emphasize here is that we have to judge an athlete with the timings they clock in the events provided the distance is accurate no matter the competitions”.

Surpassing their own PBs

To be able to be the best version of yourself in a race, you need to be consistent, focused and self-determined. It works no different here as most of these runners have achieved PB’s in these races. What really makes this group so special is the fact that they train consistently year after year with a realistic goal in mind and working towards it with a structured plan. “Our biggest strength in training is working in groups, motivating each other to give their best in every training run”, adds Coach Pani.

We have some top-notch athletes in our group like Thomas Bobby Philip, Shamala Manmohan, Nanjundappa M etc. who are regular podium winners. But, others work hard to win. It is their consistent training throughout the year and the camaraderie within the group that motivates each one of them to bring out their best. They follow the basics and the principles of training right which makes them a better athlete”.

Leading from the front

Leading by example plays a very important role in motivating runners to come out of their comfort zones and push the boundaries. To this he says, “leading from the front helps not only in winning the podiums but also while training along with them. It motivates them to give their best when some of the younger runners in the group find it difficult to cope with me during the races and training. By training along with me they learn the good things which I have been following throughout my running career”.

Coach Pani finishes off by saying, “When our runners give their PB performance in every race it gives us the satisfaction that our training is going in the right direction and we can achieve more in the near future. It motivates the beginners and newcomers to emulate like their seniors”.

2018 has been a splendid year for the group and they have now set the bar higher moving into the new year and this will only reiterate to them that determination and commitment can go a long way and help them achieve greater success.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

Read more

Featured Comments Off on Running with a new fervor |

Running with a new fervor

In conversation with Kiran Jeet, a runner who took to the fitness route and gained a new outlook on life.

Kiran Jeet a homemaker in her early 40’s and the proud mother of 2 fantastic boys tells us how running has transformed her as an individual and improved her outlook to life.

FM: Everyone has a story when it comes to how running happened to them. What’s yours?

Kiran: I guess you could say my reason for running followed a typical storyline – wanting to be fit and stay healthy. The year was 2012 and I was tipping the scales at  120kg, I used to struggle to get even mundane, everyday stuff is done and that’s when I decided enough is enough – I need to do something!

Hence, running happened and 6 years on, I am 50kg lighter, fitter than ever before and as healthy as I can be. To me, running is my meditation.

FM: A lot of runners swear by a running coach. Do you share that opinion and what are the benefits of having a coach?

Kiran: I definitely swear by a coach too (smiles away!). During the first 5 years of my running life, I did a lot of it myself through some research and trials, but for the past year now I have been working with a coach. It has been an amazing experience so far – a coach has helped me handle my runs better, stay injury-free, follow a structured training plan, eat right, time for recovery and also helped identify areas of improvement.

FM: How has your training plan changed since you have had a coach?

Kiran: Easy, the main difference between my earlier plan and now is STRUCTURE!

Earlier, it was very haphazard and I just used to run any day of the week with no specific target distance in mind. Today, I follow a plan that includes interval training, tempo runs, speed training, and long runs into my training plan. All of these changes have helped me improve my timings and I feel good about it.

FM: Having a structured plan always seems to work for most runners and I’m glad it’s working for you too. Do you mind sharing a glimpse into your training week, please??

Kiran: As I said before my training plan involves a combination of several running techniques and methods. My training week at a high level is:

Monday               – Rest day

Tuesday               – Speed work out on the track

Wednesday        – Easy recovery run for 50 mins

Thursday              – Medium long run or tempo run depending on the event I’m training for a half marathon or full marathon.

Friday                    – interval training

Saturday              – work on increasing the mileage or hill run

Sunday                 – Long runs

FM: Over the years, you have participated in several events. Do you keep count?

Kiran: In the past 6 years, I have run several half and full marathons across the country. By my estimate, I have completed 15 half-marathons and 4 full marathons so far (the TMM in January 2019 will be my 5th). In addition, I completed my first world major marathon this year in April (The London Marathon).

FM: That’s impressive. In general, do you set a target for yourself on the number of races you do each year or do you play it by ear?

Kiran: No, I do not have a pre-set target in mind every year. I prefer not to compete in every available race but instead focus on a few. For example – I always plan on completing 1 full marathon and 2 – 3 half marathons a year. Anything above that is a bonus.

FM: Fair point – which was your latest run and how did it go from your perspective?

Kiran: The last run I did was the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in October this year. It was quite an eventful start to the race with a lot of runners falling down owing to the poor visibility and early start.

For me personally, it was a fairly decent race – even though I could not better my personal best from last year (1hour 53mins) but with the training and effort I put in my preparation I had a smooth run and completed the race in 1hour 56 mins.

FM: How do you keep yourself motivated Kiran?

Kiran: When I run, I feel calm, collected and at peace. It’s as though I have been transported into this meditative state where all my worries, troubles and tension have been taken away and replaced with the single focus of having fun when I run.

This state of mind is my motivation and what brings me back to the outdoors every single day.

FM: As with every sporting activity, it benefits you not just physically but also helps shape you as an individual. Do you see the changes running has brought about in your personality?

Kiran: I couldn’t agree with you more. The impact running has had on me is immense – I feel like a whole new person. I have undergone not just physical changes but running has helped me become more confident, focused and steadfast.

I have made friends for life with some of the runners I have met along the way and I hope I can keep running for a long time to come and be part of the growing running community.

FM: That’s a beautiful thought Kiran. For the future, do you have any specific goals you want to achieve in your running?

Kiran: Of course I do – my main goal is to compete in the all world major marathons. I really hope with the right level of training, focus, determination from my side and the right kind of support and motivation will help me achieve this goal.

Thank you, Kiran for sharing your thoughts and we wish you the very best for the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

Read more

Motivation Comments Off on How I made running my life |

How I made running my life

Bahar Sinha talks about how she made running an intrinsic part of her everyday life and routine. 

Running is a state of being. The feeling of constant motion that takes my weary mind through a myriad of emotions, gorgeous new places and amazing people.

I took to running in my late 30’s and was fascinated by the possibilities it could offer me. A mother of 2 teenage kids, a partner with varied sporting interests and a demanding project manager job did not stop me from chasing my running dreams.

Working out as a couple is a great way to stay connected with each other and ensure we both meet our individual health and fitness goals. It helps us be accountable thus driving us to stick to our workout plan, motivate and be proud of each other. Well, that’s the ideal situation at least but the reality sometimes is very different.

In most cases, the real scenario is that the couples are in different fitness spaces, have different energy levels and varied interests in sport and fitness. With this backdrop, making a joint workout plan successful requires patience, understanding and respect for one another. In my opinion, I think it’s a good thing for couples to have varied interests because it brings about a certain kind of balance.

Most often than not, most couples tend to have a mindset that everything needs to be done together. In the first few years of a relationship, this could be a tenable way to do things, but it hardly works in the long run. We need to be open and acceptable when something is not working so that a change can be made, and both meet their objectives and goals.

For me at home, as a couple we have completely different sporting interests – my partner loves table tennis, badminton, swimming and the gym while I, on the other hand, am passionate about running. In this story, I would like to take you through how I am able to juggle a busy life but still enjoy my running and the support I receive from my partner and family to be able to achieve this.

Taking baby steps into the running world

My start with running was fairly routine – as with most people, I took to running to shed some those extra kilos. Being a mother of 2 especially when they are younger, does not leave you with much time for yourself and all that stress had me out of shape. When you think of getting fit, the first option is usually hitting the gym, but that idea never really motivated me. Instead, running seemed to be an easier option as it was something, I could do at my convenience during the day. Finding a partner to run with was a challenge and my partner enjoyed other sports and had his friends to hang out with.

Getting over the practical challenges in a home with kids

I spent the first few months learning the various techniques with running and just getting used to it. Over time, I got comfortable and that’s when I set my first running goal – a 10K run.

I obviously needed to do a lot of planning on how I fit the training plan into my schedule because I just had a lot of other things in life that needed my priority. Looking at my calendar, I figured the only option I had was the weekend considering my partner would be at home with my kids. That’s how I started running with the Nike Run Club on Saturdays.

As I progressed, I realized that I needed more structure to my running if I wanted to improve – that’s when I joined the Jayanagar Jaguars in the summer of 2013. The training plan involved early morning starts with training on 2 days (Tuesday and Thursday) and long runs on Saturdays. It worked for me considering it was the summer break for the kids and they were at home.

All that changed when school reopened, I needed to come up with a workaround quickly so that I could still make time for my weekday training. My partner (god bless him!) and I came up with a strategy – I would do a pre-prep the previous day, wake up early to pack some lunch for the kids and then head out for training. He would then wake up the kids, get them ready by which time I would be back, and I could see the kids off to school – the teamwork and coordination between us was awesome and helped me smooth over that challenge.

There were times though when I have had to compromise on my training schedule – like when the kids were unwell, or they had an exam, or my partner was travelling. On those days, I made sure I ran around the apartment to compensate for a missed training day. My objective was simple – (a) stage 1: move up from a 10K to a 21K run and (b) stage 2: finish 1 full marathon before I turned 40.

The hardest moments

I was training hard with big dreams and stars in my eyes when all of a sudden life threw me a curveball. My partner had to relocate to Singapore for 2 years which meant I had to manage everything on my own. Now, I’m sure a lot of you have been through something similar or even more challenging so you will understand the emotion of being overwhelmed. My runs were an outlet for those emotions to get through and with every run, I grew stronger and more determined.

To say the weekdays were a challenge is an understatement – getting my kids to understand that they had to get ready by themselves before I was back from my run was quite a task. My daughter was very cooperative, but my son had other ideas (boys, I tell you!). I had to wake up even earlier than usual to get work done at home and then head out for my workout at 5 that went on until 0645. I had the kids give me a missed call around 6 just so that I reassured they are getting ready.

To be honest, I took it one day at a time and profusely thank god if it went smoothly. Over time, things got better – my kids became more adaptable and learnt to get up and be ready on time, but we still had the odd bad days thrown in. For example, I would have planned a speed workout for the day and that’s the day my kids decide to miss the bus – that leaves me driving them 12K in the maddening morning traffic!

Weekends were usually ok but there were hectic ones too like when I would finish a long run (36K – 40K) and then immediately rush for a parent-teacher meeting. Days like this leaves you wishing for your partner to be around but like they say c’est la vie!

During the summer break, we used to visit Singapore to be together again and spend some quality time as a family. Unfortunately, it was around the same that the TCS 10K happens, so I had to train for that.

While there, I had to work remotely, follow my regular training schedule and despite the challenges of being in a new country, I found the time and courage to compete and finish in an ultra-marathon of 64.5KM organized by Tampines Sports Community in Singapore.

The love of a good family (what would we do without them, huh?)

Once I graduated to the 21K distance, I had to travel to multiple cities to participate in different races. These travels were sometimes with my family but a lot of times it was alone – during these times I had the support of my family to look after the kids. I tried as much as it allowed me, to travel only the weekends thus reducing the impact on my schedule for the rest of the week. The reason was because while I was passionate about running, I did not want to miss out on important events in life – family gatherings, parent-teacher meetings, festivals – we all need a balance in life, don’t we?

My family has been my biggest support (as it should be!) so far. They aren’t too much into running but they still attend promotional events with me, do a few 5K runs with me or just be there to cheer me on – makes a huge difference to have them around. I remember one event where we participated as a family (the Alpha league obstacle race) – we had so much during the event and after reliving the fun moments and the follies we made.

In the end

Believe in your dream and it will all work out for you – In this busy life we lead, we must learn to embrace the challenges it poses and find solutions to overcome it. I did and it helped me achieve my dream of completing my first full marathon in Bangalore (October 2016). That was just a start and since then, I did the Pune Ultra (50K) in November 2016, the Singapore International Marathon) in December 2016 and the SCMM in January 2017…and the journey continues.

The struggle may be real but it’s always worth it because running reminds you that it’s not about how badly you want something; it’s about how hard you’re willing to work for it! It doesn’t matter if your goal is to run around your block or to run a marathon, we are all running to push our limits and see how far we can go!

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

As a mother, homemaker and a professional, I find myself running from one role to another with no finish line to it. But when I am literally running there is a FINISH line and it gives me a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

 

 

Read more

Motivation Comments Off on Standing out in a crowd |

Standing out in a crowd

Find out what its like to be the only female participant in an Ironman, as told to Deepthi Velkur by Solonie Pathania, the newest Ironman from Pune.

Gina Carey, a woman of many talents – singer, director, producer famously quoted “A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink”. I do not think a better line captures the spirit and soul of Solonie Pathania, India’s sole female participant at Ironman 2016.

Pune-based Solonie Singh Pathania juggles between being a full-time professional and a passionate amateur triathlete. Her list of accomplishments is quite a read:

  • Ran her first full Ironman in 13hours 49 mins in the process becoming the 3rd Indian woman to ever complete the race.
  • Finished 1st in the women solo event at the Deccan Cliffhanger challenge (34 hours 54 mins covering 643KM between Pune to Goa)
  • Completed 6 triathlons, 1 duathlon, 3 full-marathons, and numerous half-marathons and 10Ks.

In this riveting read, she tells us how she went from running to stay healthy to compete in the Ironman challenge.

FM: You were active growing up but that slowed down during graduation. Why? How did running happen?

Solonie: During graduation being active was never really a priority. I joined college, moved to Pune and there was always something else fun to do. On top of that, I met with an accident that required me to have a knee surgery which made any physical activity difficult.

By mid-2013, I realized I was out of shape and started accompanying my father, a fitness enthusiast, on his early morning walks. Later I started running to shed the extra weight that I had gained over the years.  A few months down the line I heard about a 10K run and signed up along with a few friends and that run somehow turned me into a running fanatic.

FM: When and how did you gain an interest in Triathlons?

Solonie: My progression to triathlons was very natural and organic. After my first 10K, I realized that I enjoyed being outdoors and participating in events that challenged me physically. I heard about a Triathlon race in Pune and found it interesting – so I went ahead and signed up for it. It (the event) was in December 2013 and at the end of it, I fell in love with the sport. The thrill of doing 3 different disciplines (swimming, cycling and running) one after the other excited me. The event had an 800-meter swim, 10K bike ride, and 5Krun. I was pretty relaxed and took my time to complete the race, but I remember having crossed the finish line with a smile. I was euphoric after the race purely because of the amount of fun I had.

FM: Can you please take us through your first Ironman experience in 2016?

Solonie:

The time before the race.

Honestly, nothing can prepare you for the experience of your first Ironman race.

It’s literally the world of unknowns – you’re unsure of how your body will react to new limits, new weather conditions or even how you’d feel the morning of the race.

Kalmar (Sweden) where the Ironman race happened is well known for its windy conditions. The temperature of the water was a lowly 13 degrees that morning which meant we could swim with a wet suit on. The temperature outside though was between 19-22 degrees which was perfect for the bike and run leg.  Unfortunately, I could not train in such conditions back home.

In order to acclimatize ourselves, we arrived in Kalmar a week ahead. That week was filled with nervous excitement as I watched 3000 athletes from the world over cramp themselves into Kalmar. The air was abuzz with energy and good spirits – everyone was talking about the race, exchanging notes and sizing up the competition (in a nice way).

As time passed, the nervousness grew and soon it was ‘RACE DAY’. As we drove to the start point, there was an eerie calm and I felt quite nervous during our final set up. I did everything possible to stay calm and with one final call to my mother back home I was all set.

The race itself.

The event has a wave start where athletes are divided into groups based on their expected finish time for the swim leg. The athletes self-assess the time they will take and accordingly stand in their respective groups – <than 50 mins, 60 mins, etc. I stood in the 1hour 40-minute group as my training average was 1hour 46-minutes.

7 AM and we were off. My nervousness at the start was superseded with this grit to finish the race. The swim leg went well for me, despite challenges like a sudden temperature drop and reduced visibility (< than 100m) owing to the mist. I was thrilled to finish it in 1 hour 37-minutes. I rushed to the transition area, changed and headed to the start of the biking leg (7 mins – pretty good for a first timer).

The bike leg was a challenge – 30 mins into the leg, I realized that I had pushed the wrong button on my watch and paused it. I lost all count of my distance and time. Nevertheless, I trudged on and 50K into the ride, I was feeling great and averaging between 27-29 KMPH. Tragedy struck again – my menstrual cramps kicked in and I was in agonizing pain, my speed dropped to 23 KMPH and I contemplated giving up, but something in me wanted me to push on. At the 80K mark, I took a break and thought – I can’t let a menstrual cramp come in the way of my Ironman dream.

With that thought, I hopped back on the bike and gave it my all. It was difficult, but I managed to complete the ride in 7 hours 12-minutes.

I was still cramping when the run started and with 5 hours ahead of me, I had to re-strategize. I decided to run as fast as I can between aid stations (1.5K apart) and walk through the aid stations (100M long).  Along the way, I met a fellow Indian and asked him how were we with time – he told me that if I ran at this pace, I could be looking at a sub-14-hour finish. That is all I needed to hear to dig my heels deeper and not give in.

The support of the crowd was amazing – people were encouraging and there was so much positivity. People shouting out ‘Go Solonie’ and ‘Go India’ gave me that extra push I needed. When I completed my final loop, I hugged the sweet old man who gave me my 3 colour band which we received at the end of each loop.

At the end of the race.

I had visualized the finish multiple times in my head – but it was nothing compared to actually living it. That moment and those 4 words – “You are an Ironman” resonated in my head. I was filled with relief, excitement and immense pride. I could not have asked for a better first triathlon.

FM: You need to be strong in all 3 disciplines – Swimming, Cycling and running? What was the training you underwent for this massive challenge?

Solonie: Training for the Ironman challenge was tough but luckily, I had the right people supporting and guiding me. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr.Kaustubh Radkar (22-time Ironman finisher) in 2014 at one of the triathlon events and when I decided to do the Ironman, I immediately contacted him, he took me under his wings and I followed what he told me. With a full-time job and a tight weekly schedule, I limited my training to 2-3 hours on weekdays and 4-5 hours on the weekends. I trained 6 days a week and kept 1 day for recovery. The rigorous training program included strength training, nutrition, diet control, and proper recovery. He trained me well in multiple aspects of the race like how to fix a puncture, how to be efficient during transitioning, race day nutrition etc.

FM: You participated in the 2017 Ironman challenge. Where you better prepared this time?

Solonie: I was definitely in a better mental state for my 2nd Ironman race (Australia, December 2017). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my physical state. A few months before the race, I developed a hip injury and had a painful corn on the sole of my foot – these factors made training and the race quite difficult.

Race day was a huge challenge not just for me but for all athletes – the swim leg was canceled owing to a shark sighting that day, on the bike leg there was a massive bushfire which was fueled by hot crosswinds that drove many athletes to give up and on the run leg, the humidity and heat was ridiculously high making it a very exhausting run. Overall, I was glad to cross that finish line in one piece.

FM: With the level of physical and mental toughness needed, how do you train yourself to stay strong during the event?

Solonie: I am convinced that these endurance races are about your mental strength more than your physical ability. When you put your body through so much for a long duration, it is natural to feel aches, pains and stress but pushing on despite that is the mental strength you need.

It isn’t easy – there are days when you wouldn’t want to get up at 5 am, train for 3 hours and then go to work for 9 hours, days when the body is sore from the previous days’ work out or when you’re on your menstrual cycle and have bad cramps. Despite all of these challenges, you still get out there and train – that’s what makes you mentally strong.

You must also factor lifestyle changes needed – a non-existent social life because your life is structured around training schedules, work, sleep deprivation and tiredness. On top of that, you always have these questions – Why am I doing this? Is this the right path for me? Why did I not choose an easier dream? It’s important that you condition your mind to let these thoughts pass. You will have tough days, but you have to train yourself not to mull over this as there will always be a better tomorrow.

Never forget – always listen to what your body is telling you. If you ignore it, you will most definitely suffer the consequences. In addition, I made sure I talked to my coach and friends about any apprehensions as their reassurance helped a long way.

FM: You took part in the 2018 Deccan Cliffhanger race from Pune to Goa? What was it like to take part in a challenge like this one?

Solonie: I had never done an ultra-cycling race before, so I was not sure what to expect or how my body would react. The maximum distance I had ever covered at a stretch was 300K in training. Nevertheless, I signed up for DC 2018 to test myself and see how much further I could go. The race involves cycling for 643K at a stretch and the terrain is very challenging. After a point, everything was an uphill challenge – literally and figuratively as this race tests your physical and mental capabilities equally. With fatigue and sleeplessness chasing you down, it takes everything you have to keep your head clear and banish thoughts of “giving up”. I have never experienced exhaustion like this before, but as they say – the tougher it is, the sweeter is the result. I did the race barely 10 days back, so it still feels a little surreal that I actually cycled non-stop for 34hours 54-minutes and finished first in the women solo riders’ category.

FM: A final question – what does it take for you to be a good triathlete?

Solonie: Consistency, hard work, dedication, discipline, and focus – these 5 things are the perfect blend to be successful in anything we set out to do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.

Read more

Featured Comments Off on Do Miracles happen in Marathons? |

Do Miracles happen in Marathons?

Brijesh Gajera asks a question that is on every runner’s mind, but he is talking about more than just a Christmas miracle.

It wasn’t too long ago when I was on my usual weekend run, I bumped into a fellow runner. We said our hellos and decided to run together while we caught up on our running escapades. He has run quite a few marathons and only a few weeks ago returned from a world major marathon.

That was a big talking point for us – he mentioned that he had trained well for a sub-4-hour finish for a few months leading up to the race, but on race day disaster struck and he suffered from cramps for the last 10K of the race. Despite the setback, he managed to finish the race in 4hours and 10 minutes.

Obviously, I was curious to find out what happened and asked him about it, he told me that he turned up at the start of the race feeling fresh, confident and in the heat of the moment he decided to attempt a 3hour50minute finish!

I was stunned! “Do you believe miracles happen in marathons?” I asked him in disbelief. I guess he was equally in disbelief at my question because he asked me “What do you mean” with an amused look on his face.

I went on to explain that in my long-distance running career spanning over a decade, I have seen many a runner falling prey to the desire of wanting to push themselves higher than what they trained for. They feel fresh, confident, charged up at the start of the marathon and with the race-day euphoria surrounding them, they try and achieve more without being fully ready for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong – optimism is great, it’s what keeps us going day in and day out but to be honest, a marathon can be as punishing and as rewarding at the same time especially when you run ahead of the pace you’ve set for yourself.

Nearly all of us get to the start line full of energy (some bit of nervous energy as well) but with a spring in our step and a will to push forward. A marathon is a game to keep that energy intact for 42.195K – that is what we are supposed to achieve in our training. If you have trained yourself for a particular target for weeks and months, your muscles, tendons, joints, veins, and nerves have synchronized themselves to help you do that. All of a sudden, when you surprise them by changing the target on the D-Day, they will respond to you in the beginning, but the chances are that they will wilt as you approach the finish line.

Let me try and quantify this so that you can get a better understanding.

Let’s say, you have decided to complete the race in a time that is 10 minutes faster than your target time that you have trained for as my fellow runner did. That is roughly 14 seconds per km faster for a 42K course (and I am not even talking about the final 195 meters!). Now, you will be able to maintain this pace for a few kilometers but eventually, you will hit the wall where your legs feel like bricks. This is why coaches stress on following a tried and tested method on race day.

In my personal life, I once experienced something you could call a miracle. I ran the Mumbai Marathon aiming for a 3hour 35minute finish, but I managed to finish it in 3hours 29 minutes and 41 seconds. That translates to me running the race at approximately 7 seconds faster per km. For a large part of the race I maintained a pace which was about 2-3 seconds per km faster and only when I crossed the 36KM mark, I figured why not aim for a new target of 3hour30mins? That’s when I pushed myself harder and literally ran like the wind to achieve even lesser than my new target of 3hours and 30 mins. It felt like an absolute miracle!

A word of CAUTION though: I have run faster races since then, but I have never been able to repeat that kind of improvement over a target since. This is why it is called a M…I…R…A…C…L…E.

To aim for a miracle to happen during a marathon is wishful thinking at best and a recipe for disaster at worst. Often the decision to push yourself harder than what your body has been trained for leads to injury or underperformance and in the aftermath of such a race, it could lead to you doubting your training and even yourself. I’m sure you do not want to be in that mind space ever.

If you are still looking for miracles, what could be more wonderful than following your target plan as best as you can and then achieving the results you strived for? Isn’t it miraculous to achieve the target we’ve planned on achieving in a long time and getting our belief reaffirmed in our training and ourselves?

ABOUT THE GUEST COLUMNIST

 

Brijesh Gajera is an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-marathoner and coach at Ashva Running Club.

Read more